Rangers 2-1 Hearts: Brave display not enough for ten-man Jambos
Ten-man Hearts suffered defeat at Ibrox after seeing Prince Buaben red carded with only 25 minutes played.
The Ghanaian denied Rangers' Josh Windass a clear goalscoring opportunity and received a straight red card, with the visitors 1-0 down at the time.Joe Garner headed the opening goal past Hearts' debutant goalkeeper Viktor Noring on six minutes. Esmael Goncalves equalised shortly after half-time, but 60 seconds later Noring was at fault as Rangers restored their lead through Barrie McKay. He punched a cross and then failed to catch it, leaving McKay to score.The result means Hearts' hopes of finishing fourth and reaching the Europa League qualifying rounds are all but gone. St Johnstone only need one point to secure that European spot and were due to play Partick Thistle at home later in the day.Swedish goalkeeper Noring was making his Hearts debut ten months after joining the club. He was the most notable of five changes made by head coach Ian Cathro following last week's home defeat by Aberdeen. Jamie Walker was suspended, while Andraz Struna and Lennard Sowah were injured.Jack Hamilton had been ever-present in goal this season and had to get used to a seat on the bench again. Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha made four alterations and had to reshape his defence with Danny Wilson injured.One of the first tasks for Noring was to pick the ball out of his net. Rangers sprung an attack down the right flank on six minutes which ended with James Tavernier's outswinging cross. Garner had peeled away from Buaben to direct a header back across the goalkeeper and into the net via the inside of the post.Hearts recovered and Don Cowie's first-time shot was pushed away by the Rangers goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Noring then displayed impressive instincts to repel Garner's shot on the turn with 17 minutes played. The visitors crafted a few decent attacks but bodies clad in blue threw themselves in front of efforts from Bjorn Johnsen, Sam Nicholson and Goncalves.Their task became infinitely more difficult when they were reduced to ten men on 25 minutes. Following some slack defending, Buaben appeared to tug Windass as he ran through on goal. Referee Bobby Madden issued the Ghanaian with an instant red card for denying a clear scoring chance.Rangers quickly tried to maximise their extra man advantage. Johnsen's header from Don Cowie's corner was the only piece of action for Foderingham before half-time. Noring, on the other hand, was fairly busy as the break approached. He had to be alive to parry David Bates' netbound header from a corner down at his right. He then sprung to the left to stop Clint Hill's towering header, again from a corner-kick.Cathro reverted to a three-man defence for the second half by placing substitute Alex Tziolis in between Krystian Nowak and Aaron Hughes. Liam Smith and Nicholson were wing-backs. Six minutes after the restart Hearts drew level. Johnsen persisted through a challenge and broke down the left side before squaring to the unmarked Goncalves. His finish from 12 yards nestled in the net, sparking delirium in the away dugout.The joy was short-lived, for Rangers scored just 60 seconds later. Noring curiously opted to punch Tavernier's cross from the right when he had time to catch. The ball spun into the air and the Swede failed to collect it under pressure from two opponents. The loose ball broke to McKay for a crisp finish into the corner of the net.Noring hadn't played badly and his first-half saves were important at the time. He recovered as the second period progressed and was at his best to stop Jon Toral's vicious attempt from 20 yards.Entering the final stages, Hearts were still in the game and doing a fair degree of attacking despite being a man down. In that sense, their performance against the odds was encouraging. Rangers struggled to kill the opposition off and were in danger of paying the price. After Noring's legs stopped Martyn Waghorn's effort in a stoppage-time one-on-one, they were grateful to hear the referee's final whistle.
Rangers (4-2-3-1): Foderingham; Tavernier, Bates, Hill, Hodson; Toral, Holt; Miller, Windass, McKay; Garner.Subs51: Dodoo for Windass67: Barjonas for Holt73: Waghorn for ToralUnused subs: Alnwick, Dodoo, Halliday, Wilson, Beerman.Hearts (4-4-1-1): Noring; Nowak, Buaben, Hughes, Smith; Cowie, Martin, Djoum, Nicholson; Johnsen; Goncalves.Subs46: Tziolis for Martin73: Currie for Johnsen84: Choulay for NicholsonUnused subs: Hamilton, Kitchen, Avlonitis, Brandon.Referee: Bobby Madden.Attendance: 47,809.